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What is Cognitive Learning?

Meaning of Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning is learning by experiencing, touching, listening or perceiving. This differs from other learning theories, such as behaviourist, in that it only requires the learner’s brain and a stimulus.

Cognitive learning is based on the psychological theories of Gestalt and Jean Piaget’s developmental psychology. Included in the term spectrum is all learning done by independent reading, such as anything learned by reading a website or book.

Imitation is a form of cognitive learning, and although it is simplistic, it relies solely on observing another person’s behavior as a good way to achieve an end. The more complex types of cognitive learning include reading, listening, looking, and touching.

Any learning that is done by experimenting can be classified in this category. This has led many people to classify this type of learning as “passive” learning, but while the body seems passive, the mind certainly isn’t.

Piaget and Gestalt theories of psychology are at the base of cognitive learning. The primary tenets of Gestalt psychology are that people structure and organize their own experience, that perception is not the same as reality, and that human experience must be understood as a whole in order to be explained.

Essentially, it asserts that the organism has more influence on the way it organizes and stores information than previously thought.

Piaget’s theories go further and state that humans understand new events by “accommodation” or “assimilation”. Accommodation is modifying or changing understanding to fit a new event. Assimilation is using existing schemas to understand a new event.

The term “cognitive” refers to processes that occur in the brain. The name “cognitive learning” can seem a bit repetitive, because all learning must happen at some point in the brain.

To differentiate between cognitive learning and other types of learning, it is helpful to think of behavioral learning. This type depends on classical and operant conditioning.

Behavioral learning teaches the student things by giving a reward or punishment in response to a certain behavior.

If someone wants their dog to sit on command, they will tell them to sit and then give them a treat when the behavior is displayed.

The dog, in response to this positive reinforcement, would repeat the behavior to get another reward. Although some cognitive processes are obviously taking place, learning is primarily due to the innate response to receiving a reward.

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